Review Summary: DevilDriver take a look back at their discography and combine all of the elements of their sound through the years to create their most important album to date and a solid effort overall
Its not often we come across a metal band who have been as consistent as DevilDriver. Their discography is filled with groove metal albums that satisfy every time we hear them, and they have yet to release a truly bad album. Although each album has had something that has stood out among the others, one sole factor remains – The Fury of Our Maker's Hand is easily their best work and they have yet to top it. The album was a complete departure from the terrible sound of their 2003 self-titled (which many don't even count as their true first album). Fury was dark, it was heavy, and it was very consistent. It had some of the best guitar and drum work around and Dez Fafara's vocals were perfect to add to the mood of the album.
Following the success of such an album had to have been a challenge, and The Last Kind Words was certainly not a terrible album, but it wasn’t a truly good one either. Sure, here and there we were given some great tracks like the stellar Clouds Over California, but the songs sounded too much like they were building up to something that never came and left us just scratching our heads wondering if this was the best they could do. 2009's Pray for Villains saw DevilDriver implementing new song structures into their music, which gave the songs an all new power in some cases and at some points also weakened the overall sound of the album, bringing the songs nowhere on top of a production that left the album sounding far too clean and polished. Now its 2011, and the band have done the best thing they possibly could have done at this point in their career – they have mixed the power they had on their recent efforts and combined it with the dark vibe from The Fury of Our Maker's Hand.
Beast is a massive album. Every aspect of DevilDriver's signature sound is present but the band pushed things to even further extremes this time around. Album opener Dead To Rights starts things off with one of the most crushing songs the band have ever written. Guitarists Mike Spreitzer and Jeff Kendrick provide sinister leads and pummeling riffs that go along with John Boeklin's pulverizing drum performance to create one of the greatest intros ever and Dez comes in spitting the vocals out so fast that you aren’t given much of a chance to breathe until the song ends. In fact, that’s how most of the songs on Beast work, they simply beat the *** out of you and don’t let up until they are over.
Part of what made Fury so good was that DevilDriver were able to combine heavy riffs with haunting leads that set the perfect moods for the songs, creating a dark atmosphere. Here, this aspect returns on the intro sections to Hardened and ***list. Both are album highlights and feature some of the best guitar work on the album. The band have clearly taken a look at everything they have done with their previous work and brought in all elements of their sound to create one of their best efforts. Although Jon Miller's bass is still nearly non-existent here, it was never really an important aspect of DevilDriver's sound in the first place. The guitars and drums have always been the strong point for them, and they still are on Beast.
Vocalist Dez Fafara has also been one of DevilDriver's strong points, and he still is on Beast, but there are some points where it does feel like the band are choking him with all of the chaos that is going on here. His vocals still fit the music perfectly; songs like Dead To Rights and Hardened feature some of his best and most intense vocals to date with him sounding more pissed off than ever and his screams going back and forth between highs and lows. His lyrics have never been anything too special, and sometimes they can get cringe worthy (see the chorus of Blur). Although his lyrics aren’t all that good though, the songs are so heavy that we can't help but ignore this fact and bang our heads anyway. When Dez is in top form on songs like Hardened, Black Soul Choir, and the ending of Blur, the results are great. He has one of the better screams in metal and he uses it well.
With one of the most consistent set of albums in metal today, DevilDriver are still on the top of their game with Beast. All of the things we have taken from their previous work and loved are still here – the grooves, the pummeling drums and guitars, the dark atmosphere, the demonic vocals, its all here. Instead of bending over for the fans and creating a copy of Fury the band instead combined what they brought to the table on The Last Kind Words and Pray for Villains with the atmosphere from it to create what is not only one of the best but also one of the most important albums in their career. This is easily one of the best metal releases of 2011.